It wasn’t too long ago that we got our hands on the LG Optimus G for the first time, and even now, the phone leaves some lasting impressions. LG has brought the world a piece of hardware that goes far beyond what we’ve received before, and it has pieces of previous LG devices living in its DNA. Is the Optimus G the handset we’ve all been waiting for from LG? In this review, we’ll find out, so read on!
- Insanely powerful Snapdragon S4 Pro ensures a smooth experience
- Several software features help the Optimus G experience go above and beyond
- The Crystal Reflection glass on the back gives a great premium look and feel.
- The same understated design we like might not be flashy enough for some
- Some features have some unnecessary similarities to Samsung devices
LG left no stone un-turned with the Optimus G, as it offers up some best in class hardware. The first handset powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 Pro, the Optimus G flies into a category of its own that will want you to keep it in your hands at all times.
Offering up a 4.7 inch True HD IPS+ display (1280 x 768 resolution), LG's latest iteration of its IPS panels have little competition when it comes to clarity. That said, there are a few areas that one could give the likes of the HTC One X's Super LCD 2 display a few more brownie points. Either way, the display on the device is pretty damn great. On top of the very crisp and clear display, the screen on the Optimus G is also incredibly right. Capable of pushing out 470 nits of brightness, the display should be more than bright enough at half illumination for most times of the day.
The Optimus G also rocks 32GB of internal storage (no microSD card slot), 13 or 8 megapixel camera (depending on market) with LED flash that was developed by LG Innotek, 2,100 mAh battery, NFC, and anything else you could want in a high-end smartphone today.
The face of the Optimus G is about as clean as any Android device could come, as there's nothing to disrupt the glass on the front. When unlocked, you will see that LG decided to keep the capacitive buttons on the device, which will leave some scratching their heads. Why the likes of Samsung, HTC, and now LG are keeping the aged menu button on their devices is pretty odd, but it doesn't necessarily take away from the LG Optimus G's beauty. These buttons include back, home, and menu.
You'll find a similar set up along the sides of the Optimus G that you'd expect to see on a lot of Android handsets today. The top of the device houses the 3.5mm headphone jack, with the power/lock button moving onto the right side of the device now. It might seem a little "Samsung" of LG to do this, but when dealing with such large displays like this, it makes a lot of sense to put the button on the side of the device instead of the top. The left side of the G sports the volume rocker, and you'll find the micro USB port for charging on the bottom.
LG has achieved what it set out to do with a lot of its previous handset in the design area with the Optimus G. It's created a beautiful handset that's both understated and modern. Thin, silver accents line the face of the device and other physical buttons like the volume rocker, making it look even sexier. This is a handset you'd see in any woman's purse, in the pocket of any business man, and any average Joe. This becomes more apparent when you take a look at the handset's back side.
The Optimus G's rear is covered in LG's patented Crystal Reflection process, which produces different patterns depending on the lighting and angle that the devices is viewed in. It's really something to see on the white version of the device, as it gives a three-dimensional feel to the back glass panel. With a slightly different pattern on the black handset, the pattern still pops at first glance. It took LG 15 months to patent the Crystal Reflection process, and it's paid off, as it's easy to stare off into the ever-changing patterns.
In an attempt to bring a minimalistic look and feel without bringing a boring handset to market, LG nailed it with the Optimus G, as did it with the 4XHD. But in its latest flagship device, LG brought a whole new level to its device by choosing premium materials. Designs don't have to be flashy or decorative to be beautiful, and we applaud LG for fine-tuning its vision.
The LG Optimus G feels great in the hand. The glass panel on the back gives a very nice premium feel to the handset that we've yet to see from LG before. The one drawback you'll find on just about any device that's covered in glass is the ability to attract fingerprints. This is obviously more noticeable with the black Optimus G, but since this is glass we're dealing with, cleaning it off is simple enough.
The Optimus G feels very solid in the hand, but dealing with this much glass can make it feel fragile. Still, Android handsets are in desperate need of better materials, so we can only applaud LG for bringing these components to the Optimus G.
In previous iterations, LG's custom user interface has never been something to write home about. It's never been an amazing experience to use, but it's also never been a cumbersome, over-customized experience. It's just been -- there. This actually isn't a bad thing, as LG's software has remained one of the most usable and unintrusive custom user interfaces to grace the Android space. When we got our hands on the Optimus 4XHD and saw the revamped software, LG's software began to flex some muscle. It remained subtle without bringing too many tweaks to the table, and the updated UI on the Optimus G has received quite a nice face lift.
LG has really gone after Samsung in the software department, and for the most part, LG has successfully kicked Samsung in the software -- area.
LG focused on making some not only novel features within its new software, but some highly functional ones as well. The only downside we could really say about these certain features is that applications need to use a certain API to take advantage of the software. Nonetheless, the latest software on the Optimus G is something to be admired.
Some of the most interesting features seem to compete directly with a few of Samsung's interesting features found on the Galaxy S III and the Galaxy Note. One feature that comes to mind is QSlide. QSlide, while implemented in a different way, is LG's version of Samsung's Pop Out Play video. Instead of a separate window appearing that you can move around on the screen, QSlide merges the two screens together and you can use a small slider on the screen to adjust the transparency. This allows you to do two things at once, without needing to move around a window.
LG has also provided some interesting tweaks when it comes to zooming with Live Zoom and Screen Zoom. The former allows you to zoom in on a particular area on live HD video, and the power of the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro ensures there's not even a little bit of a stutter during the process.
Screen Zoom is an interesting and simple feature that you may find yourself using a bit. It allows you to pinch in or out of certain applications, which will then reconfigured the content being display. One of the best examples of Screen Zoom (found in the video above) is in the photo gallery. Pinching out will make the photo thumbnails larger, changing the size of the photo grid from 5 x 8 to 2 x 6. This feature extends to a handful of other applications on the handset as well.
Another pretty nifty feature on the Optimus G is Dual Screen Dual Play, which lets the user stream content from their phone to a compatible TV, while still being able to use the phone any way you want. A potential use case for this is sending a slide of a presentation to the TV and viewing the slide's extra notes on the phone. Another, more simple example would be streaming a video to your TV via your phone, and checking your email in the process.
There are quite a few new and interesting features packaged in with the Optimus G, and LG has done a great job at blending fun and functional features, all while keeping things pretty simple.
All the Small Things
Alongside some nice new features, LG has gone out of it's way to add tweaks that most would only find in either a custom ROM, or home replacement application. Subtle customizations like allowing the battery meter to show the percentage on the status bar, or allowing the user to view the home screen transition within the same window (pictured below), and multiple lockscreen unlock animations are just a few examples of LG really focusing on the user experience and convenience. No, these features may not make the average user to want to go buy the device, but it's this kind of attention to detail is very appreciated and makes us want other handset-makers to look into the kind of subtle details.
Web Browser, Multimedia And Camera
The web browsing experience on the Optimus G hasn't changed much from previous LG devices, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The layout is simple and to the point, and you'll have a hard time getting lost.
Essentially a skinned version of the stock Android browser, the main defining characteristic within the browser is the small tab on the bottom of the screen that gives you your standard browser navigation options. You'll find options for back, forward, home page, add tab, and bookmarks options. Tapping the menu button will bring more options for more settings to tweak.
The camera on the Optimus G can take some pretty shots. It can also take some not so amazing shots in lower light settings. Overall, most photos are acceptable. On a standard gloomy San Francisco day, the camera performed well enough capturing the moment.
The camera software has been updated significantly and brings a nice set of new features. Features like Cheese Shutter, which allows you to say "Cheese" or another defined word that will make the camera take the pictures aren't anything new, but it's a nice touch and that's certainly not all to expect.
Time Catch Shot is one of the most interesting camera tweaks you'll find on the Optimus G. While holding down on the shutter button will allow you to take multiple pictures with the camera, Time Catch Shot takes a different approach. With the feature activated, the camera will begin taking pictures of the subject, allowing you to choose the best one, before you even press the shutter button. This could come in handy if you're trying to take a photo with some fidgety children.
Call Quality And Battery Life
This particular review unit is straight out of Korea, so we were only working with GPRS on T-Mobile. We'll soon have the Sprint and AT&T models to test call quality with the Optimus G.
When the Optimus G was announced in Korea, I had time to use it for a few days and the not final software, along with the combination of (excellent) LTE caused the battery to drain in a very short amount of time. Although I'm on a much slower network, I've been using the handset on WiFi constantly. So far, the battery life on the device is more than adequate, but again, we'll see how the two US variants fare when we get some time with them in the coming days.
While you shouldn't expect this sort of battery life, it was pretty nice to see the Optimus G at 45% after 13 solid hours of use. Oh, GPRS.
The Final Take
In an uphill battle for relevance, LG has come out with a sharp right hook. The Optimus G is a great device that certainly shows the world that it isn't going anywhere. We saw some great things comes from the LG Optimus 4XHD, and the Optimus G builds upon that further with some great build materials, and a very nice, yet not overdone facelift in the software department.
While this is nothing more than my personal opinion, but I'd probably opt for the Optimus G over the Galaxy S III if I were to buy one these devices. From the screen technology to the processor, the Optimus G sails past Samsung's flagship device. It would be a harder decision if the Galaxy S III was rocking the same Exynos processor we'll soon find in the Galaxy Note II, but that's just not the case. While some may not be in love the the Optimus G's boxy design, I've got to say that I'm a huge fan of it. Especially the rear glass panel with the Crystal Reflection pattern. And while some may appreciate the design of the Galaxy S III more, when it comes to in hand feel, there's no question as to which feels more like a premium device.
At the moment, the power under the hood of the Optimus G goes unmatched. The Snapdragon S4 Pro give the feeling that the Optimus G is already rocking Android 4.1 with Project Butter since it runs so smoothly. We'll soon have the HTC One X+ and the Galaxy Note II to challenge LG's newest flagship handset, but we'd say that Life is Good for the company right about now.
If anything, the Optimus G should at very least prove to the world that it's not the chump many have believed it was in the smartphone market. The handset is every bit as interesting and powerful as the rest of them, and it should make interested parties that much more excited about the upcoming Nexus device.